Summer wrestling makes winter champions.
There will be about 1,200 firm believers in that saying pouring into the Akron area this weekend for the ASICS University and FILA Cadet National Wrestling Championships at Stile Athletics Field House at the University of Akron.
It’s the sixth consecutive year the event has been held here.
Wrestlers compete in two age groups and two wrestling styles — Greco-Roman and freestyle. FILA Cadets, ages 15-17, compete for the right to wrestle in the national championships in July and from there, if they qualify, on the world team at the world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.
University athletes, ages 18-24, vie for the right to compete Aug. 17-18 at the University World Team Trials in Colorado Springs, Colo.
No matter what the prize or goal, however, the wrestlers on hand have one thing on their minds: competing.
Sheldon Brandenburg, 20, should know. He is on the Cleveland State wrestling team. In high school, he was a member of the Wadsworth team that beat Lakewood St. Edward.
“Summer wrestling is always about getting better, just going out there and doing it. A lot of kids take the summer off because they’re not in school and enjoy their lives,” he said. “But things like this, you have to train every day and events like this go hand-in-hand with being a good wrestler.”
Brandenburg won’t have a chance to make nationals, but for him the benefit is obvious. It’s an opportunity to improve.
Beavercreek’s Nick Corba, 17, approached the event in a similar fashion Friday afternoon. An Ashland University recruit, Corba beat his opponent. He didn’t have to worry about qualifying for nationals, however, because he had done so at a previous tournament.
“I can’t just go home, go back to work and watch TV. I have to compete with the best,” he said after his match.
This is the third time that he has competed in this event, and it helps that it’s a few hours’ drive from his hometown, which is near Dayton. It, however, offers a practical benefit.
“This is an actual tournament so there will be a lot of college coaches looking at me. There’s less here for Greco, but there will be more here for freestyle. That’s where you really have to step your game up,” he said.
By no means is this a tournament with just regional pull. A quick survey of the Stile parking lot shows license plates from Washington state and Utah.
“We get people from all over,” tournament director Chris Kallai said. “Since we brought this tournament here from Illinois, it’s growing.”
Brought here with the help of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the Summit County area hosted about 800 wrestlers in the first year. It’s grown to 1,200 from across the nation.
Josh Jensen, 15, of Payson, Utah, is among those to journey a long way to compete for his first time at this event.
“It’s a lot of tough guys, but I think I could stay with them. I want to see how I will do with the top competition here,” he said.
Ultimately, it’s what he can learn and gather from the tournament that will be most valuable. There’s little doubt that for the city of Akron, benefits reveal themselves.
Economically speaking, the sports commission estimates that it will pump $850,000 into the local economy by the time it ends Sunday as the Akron-Canton Airport, hotels and restaurants benefit from increased traffic.
Another huge beneficiary: UA.
“Any event like this that we can bring to the University of Akron is just extra exposure, not only for the city or the university,” said Allan Hoon, the facilities manager for Stile Field House. “It just gives more exposure to Summit County.”